The first in the popular ICE AGE animated series is just over a decade old, yet visually it’s already a couple of digital generations behind the curve. The story still comes off, though oddly, it’s the sweet/sentimental side that now works best, with the action & comedy set pieces lagging behind, often detachable from the plot. But even as we get engaged in seeing how a woolly mammoth, a giant sloth & a saber-tooth tiger bond as Three Unlikely Musketeers to beat all odds and return a lost infant to his father, the right side of the brain notes how compromised the computer animation resolution now looks, like switching back to a non-HD tv channel, particularly tough on the nap of all those animal coats which take on a blobby texture. (The same might be said of the disappointing vocal characterizations of Ray Romano’s mammoth & Denis Leary’s tiger.) Why primitive analogue animated techniques from the ‘20s & ‘30s should still look fully achieved within their own limited terms, still physically beautiful to the eye, while these recent computer marvels quickly age into a compromised (and even unattractive) electronic canvas is a puzzle.*
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *It may be that the film’s driving force, director Chris Wedge, who only hung around to voice Scrat the Squirrel on the sequels, had similar thoughts about older animation techniques since the most striking visuals in the film come during a brief, and unexpectedly moving, analogue sequence where a cave painting comes to life in jittery hand-drawn style.